Jason Isbell Challenges Jason Aldean to Write His Own Music: “That’s What We Try in My Small Town”

Aldean's new single "Try That in a Small Town" has been criticized for promoting politicized violence

jason isbell jason aldean try that in a small town
Jason Isbell (photo by Danny Clinch) and Jason Aldean (photo via Getty)

    There are many things wrong with Jason Aldean’s recent single “Try That in a Small Town,” namely that it’s a racist dog whistle that stokes violence against anyone who doesn’t fit the singer’s picture of a Good Ole American. Rather than rehashing what many have already said, however, Jason Isbell challenged Aldean to do better… by simply writing his own music.

    “Dare Aldean to write his next single himself. That’s what we try in my small town,” Isbell wrote on Twitter on July 19th. The following day, the Southern rock artist doubled down, tagging Aldean in a follow-up tweet and saying, “I’m challenging you to write a song yourself. All alone. If you’re a recording artist, make some art. I want to hear it.”

    “Try That in a Small Town” dares its listener to attempt carjacking and liquor store robbery — crimes stereotypically associated with Black Americans — before getting straight to its racist point, implying that anyone who “cusses out a cop” and “stomps on the flag” will be met with a gun Aldean got from his granddad. (Have we mentioned that the single’s accompanying music video was shot at the location of a past lynching?)


    Of course, as Isbell points out, Aldean didn’t even write the song. According to Genius, Kelley Lovelace, Kurt Allison, Neil Thrasher, and Tully Kennedy did. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe Aldean has the warm and fuzzy “pro-community” feelings he’s tried to explain recent controversy away with. If anything, the track was likely written with controversy in mind; nothing inspires an uptick in streaming numbers like online debate!

    Isbell isn’t the only artist to condemn “Try That in a Small Town.” Sheryl Crow denounced the track in her own statement, writing, “There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence.” She also joined a chorus of voices compelled to remind Aldean that he was the headlining performer at the 2017 Las Vegas music festival that devolved into the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

    Isbell and Aldean both live in Nashville, and both record country-adjacent music, but only one Jason seems to be succeeding at a different, more important challenge: “Try Not to Be an Asshole.”


    Editor’s Note: Read our recent cover story on Jason Isbell

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